Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chapter 27/WWII in Cavendish

Following Chapter 27 is what Cavendish was like during WWII. For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont(Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

Meantime life had gone on, as it always seems to. I refused to concede that I wouldn’t be unable to go on active duty if so ordered. Hence while attempting to recover my health I also was making every possible preparation for leaving the farm for an undetermined period. How the situation pertaining to the family might develop, I was very uncertain: I could not take them with immediately if I should join the Army, but hoped to they might be able to follow me later. In the interim the position might not be easy. Wyeth was all right, as he was away, in mid-term of his second year at Mount Hermon school. But Ann was in first year High at Ludlow and had to walk a mile and a half to where she could meet the bus; Joyce still was going to the little school down the road; and this left Isabel at the farm by herself except for such time as the girls were at home. Yet there was no effort to dissuade me from what I felt I had to do; their chief worry I'm sure was for me. I was proud of them.

To the relief of everyone I was able to dispose of the livestock except for one cow and some hens. Crops were good so a reasonable supply of food was on hand. My Army pay would provide a much more adequate income then we had been accustomed to for a long time. So my main concern was for the family's physical comfort and well-being, especially during the winter. Problems were bound to arise. However, my nearest neighbor re­assured we that he would "keep an eye on things" and I was confident he would.

At least I'll try to leave you a bathroom" I promised Isabel. So during the fall of 1940 I bent every effort to this end. Our plan to have a toilet and lavatory between living room and kitchen still seemed good so I set about it. The biggest problem was the water supply, I had the idea- to mount a good-sized tank within the partition between bath and kitchen, so it could serve both. It would not have to be any higher than the present pipe from the spring, the flow would be constant as protection against freezing, and an overflow would take water to the trough out by the barn. The only feature I was unsure of was the amount of pressure needed to make the toilet flush properly, but I figured this out very carefully: when the storage tank was moderately full .a lead from the bottom to the toilet tank should fill the latter without dif­ficulty, Then I made a sketch of the proposed tank with its several con-sections for the various pipes (toilet, lavatory, and kitchen sink, in addition to the inflow and overflow) and took it to the neighborhood plumber. I carefully explained what I wanted,- a strong copper lined box of the needed capacity, with fittings,- and left it with him with trepidation as it obviously was something never heard of before!

Then while awaiting delivery of septic tank, pipe, and bathroom fixtures (coming from a mail-order house) I went to a lumberyard and bought some two-by-fours with which to build the partition. Here I made a serious error for which I suffered both immediately and later on,- not being able to find any seasoned wood I was talked into accepting none freshly sawed hemlock. The stuff began to warp even before I put it up, and con­tinued to twist out of shape even when nailed in place. It also was hard and tended to split. I used it only because I was in a hurry...and lost hours in the end. As if this wasn’t enough bother, before the septic tank came it began to rain and it seemed as tho it never would stop. Between wet spells I dug a hole- a 600 gallon tank takes quite a hole- and it filled with , water which had to be baled out. The tank arrived, I set it in the hole, and before I could anchor it there was more rain, the hole filled and the tank floated. So, it had to come out again. Sides of the hole caved in. But, eventually, the job was done, the soil pipe from the house and the outlet pipe to drain off effluent were in place, the lid put on the tank and the whole thing well covered with tramped earth.

This was accomplished just in time, as the season was advanced and the ground commenced to freeze. So with great relief I shifted operations to indoors. The plumber delivered the water supply tank (without comment) (and almost according to plan); so I constructed the frame of the double partition with the tank in place, and then finished the interior of the bathroom with rough wallboard and a door. The kitchen side was left open until the pipes could be installed.

But now time ran out: It was nearing Christmas. My orders had come,. I was to report to Fort Ethan Allen on 15 January for physical and so en route to Fort Riley, Kansas. And we had made up our minds to go “home” for the holiday to see our families, not knowing when we might have another opportunity (we never did.) To complicate matters we were even more broke than usual,

With a do-or-die spirit we told our people to expect us. Then a couple of days before Christmas we loaded the car and headed south, still with no money, But in Brattleboro I went to a jeweler's with the gold hunting. case of a very good watch of my father’s (wondering if I would be suspected of being a pick=pocket) and converted it into sufficient cash for the trip. It was not an easy thing to do, as Father had purchased that watch with his small savings upon his return from the Civil War; but I always have been so glad that I did. We saw all of our people and some friends and had a very happy time..,,

We were favored by the weather, and returned to Windy Hill without run­ning into any trouble. There, in the rush of getting ready to join the Army, I managed to find time to see my plumber friend and ask him, to complete the bathroom job, He agreed to this with some reluctance, but was as good as his word; and not long after I arrived at Fort Riley one of Isabel's letters announced with glee that the bathroom was being used and was just fine, "You can take a bow," she told me, "When Mr. -- had everything connected and the tank had filled up, he flushed the toilet - and I wish you could have seen him! He really was funny when he said "The damn thing does work!" - I admit to considerable relief. If it hadn't worked it would have made such a beautiful neighborhood story,..I never would have dared to go home.

Cavendish WWII Veterans speaking to the 6th graders at CTES
From L to R: Seymour Leven, Carmine Guica and Jim Hasson
Cavendish During WWII: If you talk to some of the town’s older residents, they will assure you that “the war years,” was the heyday of Cavendish. Needless to say, World War II was a common cause that everyone could and did rally around, plus everyone had at least one job, if not two, so the financial situation was much improved from the 1930s “Great Depression” years.

One hundred and sixty-eight (68) men and one woman served in every branch of the armed services and in nearly every area where American soldiers, sailors and flyers were sent. The only woman, Imogene Baxendale served as an Army nurse. Six men were killed in action and several were wounded.

Every one was involved in war relief, from the youngest child collecting scrap to the oldest residents, who knitted or served as look out in the spotter towers. Even if you had another job, you still worked a shift at Gay Brothers Mill, which had signed a union contract with Local 261 of the Textile Workers Union of America, in order to get Government contracts.

Gay Brothers, described as “the chief war industry of our town” had 300 people working, producing 30,000 yards of woolen blankets, Navy uniform cloth and Khaki flannels each week for the United States Government. With 37% of the workers serving in the military, women went to work to fill their slots along with men working second jobs and all high school students over 16 were asked to work at the mill whenever possible.

Proctor Reel and Shook company moved its machinery from New Jersey into the old Black Bear Mill in Proctorsville and employed about 50 people for their government contract. The company made, among other items, the large wooden reels for electric or telephone wire. Springfield machine shops trained women for the workforce as jobs became vacant as men left for war.

Life on the farm for Carmine Guica
who served in the Pacific.
In addition to knitting for soldiers, attending preparedness workshops, and donating blood, Civil Defense was very active. Residents were telephoned and told the date of air raid drills (black outs). Streetlights were turned off at the scheduled time and anyone outside, including motorists, were asked to take cover in the nearest building. Blinds and “black out” drapes served to keep light from shinning through. The idea was that enemy planes couldn't target what they couldn't see, and that any light visible from above could attract bombs and gunfire. Drills were held regularly, with air raid wardens patrolling the villages and farms to make sure that lights were out and shades drawn.

Because of its proximity to “Precision Valley,” the town was considered to be in a high-risk area for bombing by the Germans. Consequently, Cavendish maintained three spotter towers that were staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The towers were located on the Duttonsville School Hill and across from Moonlite Meadows Farm (Ting’s Farm) on East Road in Cavendish and at the end of what is now called Blood Terrace off of Maple Street in Proctorsville. Women, sometimes with their children, high school students and men not in the service, worked in two-hour shifts. Spotters learned to identify both friendly and enemy airplanes and how to report any aircraft they saw. All of the spotting towers were made of wood with walls lined with identification charts. In addition to spotter training workshops, adults and groups like the Boy Scouts, were issued playing cards to be used regularly to help with aircraft identification.

After the war, when the German’s bombing list for American sites was discovered, Springfield was not only in the “top 10” but ranked as number six. Clearly Cavendish had reason to be cautious.

The children were as equal participants as their parents. They helped by:
• Tending Victory gardens
• Babysitting younger siblings since more Moms were working
• Assisted with metal and meat fat drives-the latter was used for ammunition
• Collected milkweed pods-the silk was used to fill life vests
• Purchased saving stamps and participated in war bond rallies
• Girls would “do their bit and knit” socks and other items for servicemen.

Rationing went into effect in 1942 with sugar, meat, butter, lard and coffee being the main foods rationed. There was a lot more reliance on maple sugar during the war years and butter was available to those who had cows. However, many still recall the awful flavor of margarine and the yellow packet of dye sold to help make the color consistent with that of butter. The rationing was such that in 1944, the Sunshine Society voted not to serve the annual Town Meeting Day lunch due to a combination of rationing and lack of volunteers.

When gasoline rationing went into effect, many Cavendish residents traveled by train as much as possible as tires were also in short supply.

On April 11, 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the high school in Chester, Vermont, which some Cavendish students attended. The graduating class, having earned and collected the money for a trip to New York City or Washington, had given this up and decided instead to do something useful with the money which would carry out the motto of the class—"To Work Towards A Just and Durable Peace." They made me an honorary member of the class, presented me with the check and left it to me to suggest what they should do. At the luncheon following the ceremony they voted to accept my suggestion that they buy war bonds and, when the war is over, use the money to give some boy or girl a scholarship for study either here or abroad which would increase the understanding between nations. My Day Eleanor Roosevelt A day after her visit to Chester, Franklin Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, GA.

When the war ended in Europe V-E day, May 8, the celebration was subdued. However, when V-J Day (Japan’s surrender) came,  August 14, Mill whistles and church bells were sounded from about 7 pm until midnight.

Seymour Leven on duty in the Pacific Theater as a gunner for a bomber
Learn more about Cavendish WWII Veterans

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